Senate votes to let drones operate in US airspace

Among Liberties Advocates, Outrage Over Expanded Use of Drones

A measure passed by the Senate on Monday that would require the Federal Aviation Administration to give unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, expanded access to airways in the United States has civil liberties organizations fuming.

Under the measure, the drones, similar to those used to track Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, would share airspace with conventional planes by Sept. 30, 2015. Until now, the F.A.A. has sought limits on the use of drones in national airspace because of concerns that the devices did not have sufficient safety mechanisms to prevent midair collisions.

But the F.A.A. bill would sharply curtail those limits, and civil liberties groups are in an uproar over potential privacy concerns posed by the drones – some of which are as small as a hummingbird and can be equipped with infrared and video cameras as well as radar.

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